BOYNTON BEACH — Jeffrey D. King and Melissa Lavell were struck and killed by Brightline trains six days and less than a half-mile apart, in the heart of a community that would seem familiar to many on the Treasure and Space coasts.
Their deaths have sparked fierce debate about who is to blame — Brightline opponents argue the passenger railroad must take responsibility, while supporters point out that King and Lavell were trespassing — and on the Treasure Coast have reignited questions about safety.
When Brightline begins full Miami-to-Orlando passenger service, possibly by 2020, pedestrians who cross the tracks daily to work, shop and go to school will be endangered, Treasure Coast opponents have long said.
On Thursday, just a day after the latest Brightline fatality, Boynton Beach residents echoed those sentiments, saying they were disturbed by the recent deaths and concerned about future incidents.
“It’s so sad,” said Georgia Hillesland, pastor of the nearby Boynton Beach Congregational United Church of Christ. “How many more people have to die before something is done about it?”
Four people have been killed by Brightline trains since the summer, when the railroad began test runs.
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